According to a new survey by Trinity College in Connecticut, significantly fewer Americans are identifying themselves as Christian than did in 1990 (down to 76% from 86%). Also striking, 15% of Americans now say they have no religion at all, vs. only 8 percent in 1990. 

Ironically, one of the factors suspected of feeding this trend is the rise of evangelical Christianity. (Currently one in three Americans ID themselves as evangelical). "In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way," Trinity's Mark Silk told CNN. "In an earlier time, people who would have been content to say, 'Well, I'm some kind of a Protestant,' now say 'Hell no, I won't go.' " 

Even as a non-religious gal, I find this development kinda depressing. I'm sure evangelicals believe they're doing the Lord's work in lobbying hard for their moral causes. But if their behavior is also prompting the less zealous to abandon church altogether, is it really worth the cost--even by the accounting standards of said evangelicals?

I guess if you truly believe that evangelicalism is the only Christianity worth practicing, the answer is yes. (Because all those mainline protestants were just phony followers headed straight to hell anyway, right?) But is it really a good thing for Christianity to wind up with a vastly smaller and narrower--even if ostensibly purer--pool of faithful?

Kind of reminds you of what's being debated in the GOP these days, no?

--Michelle Cottle